Our friends at Behind the Steel Curtain brought this bit of news to our attention this evening - apparently the Packers have been kicking the tires on a restricted free agent from Pittsburgh, bringing in nose tackle Steve McLendon for a visit this week. As a name that is probably unfamiliar to most Packers fans, it's time to take a brief look at McLendon to figure out who he is and whether he could be a potential asset in Green Bay.
McLendon came into the NFL in 2009 out of Troy University and bounced around the practice squad before playing seven games in 2010 across the defensive line. He has played 14 and 16 games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons respectively, recording a total of three sacks and a forced fumble in those two years.
McLendon's fit in Green Bay could be at a few different positions. He is viewed by many as the prospective starting nose tackle in Pittsburgh with Casey Hampton departing. However, he is listed at 6'4" and 280 pounds, and players that size tend to play the 5-technique end position in Green Bay. With that said, McLendon graded out highly by Pro Football Focus at tackle in a limited number of snaps, putting up a +7.0 grade that was good for the 7th-highest grade among free agent interior linemen.
I talked to Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain, who eased some of my concerns about McLendon playing nose tackle:
I think he's more of the angular, quick kind of tackle - definitely not (like B.J.) Raji. But he's very strong, and showed he's tough to block. The Steelers and Packers play the same base D though, and while he didn't log significant snaps in 2012, it's really kind of a mystery as to why ... He's not 280. He said during camp last year he was 325. He's very solid, but he's heavier than what they list him as.
That's encouraging about his weight, because I have a hard time imagining a player listed at 280 playing nose tackle in any 3-4 defense. The real interesting part about McLendon, though, is that he received the lowest tender in restricted free agency, and since he was an undrafted free agent the Packers would not owe Pittsburgh any compensation if he were to sign with the Packers. If he could be pried away from the Steelers with a reasonable contract offer, he could be a solid low-cost addition to the Packers' defensive line rotation.